Thursday, April 30, 2015

FREE Audiobooks All Summer!!

Audiosync gives away two free audiobooks every week of the summer.  They are usually paired books that include a current YA novel and a classic that relates to it somehow.  Even if you don't care for the YA novel, everyone should go download the classics.  High schools tend to require many classics as books you have to read for class.  By having the audio versions of them, you will find they are MUCH easier to read and understand.

Here is a listing of all the titles and which weeks they will be available.  Also, you can go to and sign up for text alerts to remind you to go download the books you want!

For sample recordings of all of the books that will be available, go to THIS LINK.

The first download is scheduled for May 7th!!

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman

Genre:  Science Fiction
Kady and Ezra have just gone through the worst break up in history.  The day is not promising to be a good one - and then her planet is invaded.  The year is 2575 and Kady and Ezra live on a distant planet at the edge of the universe.  Unfortunately, there are two mega corporations fighting for the resources on that planet and one company has decided to destroy it so that the other one can't have it.  In their escape, Kady and Ezra have ended up on two different rescue ships.  And now they have to figure out how to keep themselves and everyone else from dying from the disease that one of the weapons released upon their planet.

But wait.  There's more!  The artificial intelligence system that runs the ships is trying to kill everyone too.  Oh, and Kady is a hacker who has discovered that there is MUCH more than meets the eye with this invasion.  AND, the whole story is told through IM's, military files, hacked documents, interviews, emails, and the ramblings of a computer gone mad.

What I Liked
Oh.  My.  Goodness.  What DIDN'T I like?  This is simply one of the best books I have read so far this year.  Once you get past all of the introductions to the format of the book, and once you figure out the pacing of it, you will not be able to put it down.  Reading this book was like reading a movie script.  I loved the sheer brilliance of the format.  No narration is needed.  Getting to know Kady and her hacking abilities was one of the best parts.  I also loved Ezra's side of things and the fact that both of them realize that when the end of the world is at their feet, the things they fought over are so meaningless.

It's weird to say this, but I also liked reading the inner thoughts of the artificial intelligence system, AIDEN.  The computer becomes a character all by itself by the end of the book.  It's so simple to understand that all AIDEN wants to do is save the people on board all three of these ships.  So, when we realize that he must kill some of them in order to save the rest of them, we start to see AIDEN as having human characteristics that we know computers can't have.  This is genius writing, folks.

What I Didn't Like
Um, nothing.  There was not one point in the book when I was thinking to myself, "Gee. I wish that had been done differently."  I'm one of the pickiest readers on the planet, but I found nothing that I would consider a flaw in this one.

What Did This Remind Me Of?
Some of you have probably never seen the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey.  It's a movie made back in 1968 about a voyage to space on a ship run by an AI system named HAL.  HAL takes over the mission and it's not in a good way.  While AIDEN made me think of this old movie, he doesn't take over the plot of the story.  Kady and Ezra are still the main characters.  But they are totally affected by this computer system.


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Book Nerd Problems

Don't let this happen to you!  Come get a book at the library!

It's Pronounced LibRary!!

I kinda DO care how you say it, but am happy you know where it is, too!

Texas Library Association 2015

So I was out most of the week last week so that I could attend this awesome, booknerdy event.  Here are some of the pictures I took while I was gone.

Publishers give away lots of books that haven't been published yet.  This is my haul.  I will put these in the library very soon!

This is Chris Lynch.  He's the guy that wrote all of those Vietnam and WWII books that I recommend to the guys.  These are a few of his new books.  Hit Count looks really good!  He autographed them for us!

Kiera Cass is on the right.  She wrote the Selection books.  Lauren Oliver is in the middle.  She wrote the Delirium series.  And that's Jessica Brody who looks like she's about to eat the microphone.  These ladies were hilarious!  

Marie Lu!!! She wrote the Legend series.  She was quite awesome.  Didn't know this, but she is a die hard gamer.  
That's Alexandra Bracken on the left.  She wrote Darkest Minds.  She also has a new series coming out soon.  And, yes, I will be buying it!  Emmy Laybourne is on the right.  She wrote the Monument 14 series.  Her new book is called Sweet and is about an artificial sweetener that has deadly side effects!
Ran into Origami Yoda himself, Tom Angleberger.  We had to wait for a table at lunch time and we hung out for awhile, along with some of his other author friends.  So cool!
The sequel to The Program coming soon!

Another book in the Deep Blue mermaid series!

Another beautiful cover on the next book in the Splintered series!

A graphic novel version of Legend?  What?  
I'm happy to be back at school with all of my students again!  I've missed hanging out with you and helping you find books!  Come see me when all of this STAAR testing is over!

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

Genre:  Fantasy
The world has changed.  There are now only people who have red blood and people who have silver blood.  The red bloods are regular people who live outside of the kingdom of silver blooded royalty and lords.  The red bloods live to serve and fight wars for the silver bloods.  What keeps this system from toppling?  The silver bloods have strange powers that are just scary enough to make the red bloods stay in their place.  Except for Mare.  She has the ability to harness electricity.  And once the silver bloods find THAT out, they have to spin a web of lies to make sure no one ever finds out.  But Mare doesn't feel like cooperating with that plan.

What I Liked
Once I got started reading this book, I got lost in the world of these strange people.  I was afraid it was going to be too much fantasy for me.  I don't like it when fantasy books are full of strange names and weird places - so much so that I can no longer picture what is happening in my mind.  I know.  I know.  That's what makes fantasies what they are.  But I never was able to read those kinds of books.  I need there to be enough reality in them so that I can relate to the characters and the plot.  This book had just enough realism to keep me reading.  

I also liked that it really ramped up the action towards the end.  Some books tend to slow down in the middle to get the readers ready for a big ending.  This book tended to speed up.  Do not plan on doing anything in your life after chapter 26!  From that point, it is a constant action scene with plenty of revelations to keep your from putting down the book!

What I Didn't Like
There wasn't much that I didn't like about this one.  I even gave it five stars on Goodreads which I don't do very often.  If I had to pick something it would be that some of it was a little bit predictable.  Like the ever present love triangle that tends to happen in so many books these days.  However, this triangle seems to straighten itself out pretty quick.  The reader doesn't have to get pulled into a Team Edward/Team Jacob kind of nonsense. 

Epic Read Explains
Watch this quick video for a brief explanation of what happens in this book.  It's kind of like a book trailer, but not quite as cheesy.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

I Am The Weapon by Allen Zadoff

Genre:  Realistic Fiction
"Ben" is a trained killer.  He has worked for The Program since he was a child.  They prepared him for his job.  He is saving the world from terrorists who threaten the American way of life.  What he is doing is the right thing.  At least that's what he has been told.  See, "Ben" is only 16.  And his next assignment is the mayor.  He has just five days to get close to the mayor's daughter, Sam, kill her dad, and then he can move on.  But his memories of his real family are making him question everything he has ever known.

What I Liked
This series is called the Boy Nobody series.  I love that.  We really don't ever find out who he is other than his aliases throughout the book.  The author did a great job of inserting plenty of glimpses into "Ben's" past to make me want to keep reading and find out what really happened to him as a child.  The assignment he is on for the main plot of the book is also intriguing.  Having the assasin personalized is a genius concept.  I found myself rooting for "Ben" and wanting him to be happy.  I think this is a pretty good way to keep the reader interested.

What I Didn't Like
The whole book was written in such a way that we are kind of in "Ben's" head.  He is a trained killer.  He doesn't let emotion get in the way of his job.  The sentences we read are short and succinct - kind of like you would expect an assasin to think.  Just the facts.  I didn't love this.  It was something I had to get used to, and it took me until about halfway through the book before I did.  I almost put it down and moved on to another book.  But, I'm glad I stuck with it.  Pretty great ending and I am pretty interested in what the next book might bring with it.

Book Trailer
I like this trailer.  Not too cheesy, but just enough of a tease for this book.
Happy reading!!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer

Genre:  Fantasy
"I was sent here because of a boy.  His name was Reeve Maxfield, and I loved him and then he died." -- Jam Gallahue

Jam has been in a deep depression since she lost her boyfriend, Reeve.  Her parents have decided to send her to The Wooden Barn, a therapeutic boarding school for troubled teens.  She gets enrolled in a class called Special Topics in English and is assigned a special journal to write in about her feelings.  What she doesn't realize is that this isn't just any old journal.  When she writes in it, she is transported to a place where she can be with Reeve again.  And when she discovers that the journal is working the same for the other four people in the class with her, they make a plan to make sure they don't waste this amazing opportunity.  

What I Liked
I really enjoyed the stories of all of these kids.  It didn't just pour out on the pages in one long narrative.  I had to wait and find out what happened to the kids along with Jam.  That really made me want to keep reading.  Also, they were such likable kids!  You wouldn't think that a boarding school for troubled teens would have students that have so much to offer, but these kids made me want to cheer for them!  Their teacher was pretty awesome as well.  But maybe I'm a bit biased when it comes to how teachers are portrayed in literature.

Also, the wording of this book and its underlying message of the power of writing were important to me.  Jam realizes that writing about her feelings is the reason why she was able to move on.  And the other kids realize it too.  Sometimes we just have to let our feelings out to a unknown entity that can't answer back and try to solve all of our problems for us.  We just need to pour it out on paper and then leave it behind and never look at it again.  This is the power of writing.  This is the power of Belzhar to the students in this class.  I love that.

Quintessential Quote
There is so much imagery in this book.  Not only does the main character learn about the beauty that words can bring into our lives, but the author invites us into that way of thinking as well.  My favorite example of this is at the end of the book when Jam realizes just how far she has come on her journey. 

"And I also know that pain can seem like an endless ribbon.  You pull it and you pull it.  You keep gathering it toward you and as it collects, you really can't believe that there's something else at the end of it.  Something that isn't just more pain.

But there's always something else at the end; something at least a little different.  You never know what that thing will be, but it's there."  -- p. 253

I like the idea that there is something other than pain waiting for you after you have dealt with so much of it already.  Wolitzer doesn't sugar coat it for us.  She lets us know that it won't be a complete turn around to extreme happiness because we all know that isn't always the case.  She respects the reader enough to tell us the truth:  things will change eventually, but slowly.  We just have to keep pulling at that ribbon until it exposes what's waiting for us on the other side.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Never Be Afraid to Tweet Authors!

So, the other day, I tweeted out this picture of our March Madness contest.

When I did it, I tagged most of the authors of the books that are still in the contest.  I love it when they retweet my stuff and favorite it!  These are the rock stars of my world, and when they actually acknowledge my presence, I think it's pretty cool.  Anyway . . . a couple of them tweeted back to me that they are so happy to be included among such great books.  And (duh duh duuuhhh) one of them looked up my email address and asked if she could come speak to the students!!  

Lissa Price, the author of Starters and Enders, might just be coming to see us in May!  I am still working out the details, but this could happen!!  I'll let you know when I know more.

The point of this little story is that you should reach out to people through Twitter and Instagram.  Look up the authors' handle or username and ask them about their books.  You could even just send a quick message about how much you liked their book.  It doesn't matter.  One of my teacher friends tagged an author on Instagram and her kids got to meet her through a Skype visit.  They love it when people reach out to them.  You never know what could happen!

I'll let you know more about Lissa Price's visit!  (Hint:  I will probably only open it up to the Reading Sprint participants, so go fill out a form!)

The Sweet Dead Life by Joy Preble

Genre:  Supernatural

Jenna's life is no picnic.  Her dad disappeared five years ago and her mom decided to stop participating in life.  Her popular, athletic brother has dropped out of football and spends most of his time working to support the family.  To top it all off, Jenna thinks she may be dying.  Then one day she and her brother get in a car accident and Jenna is told that someone has been poisoning her.  When she looks to her brother for help, she discovers that he may not have truly survived that car accident (because what ARE those strange looking feathers sticking out of his back?).  Oh, and her dad may be alive somewhere.  They need to figure it all out soon before someone else gets seriously hurt.

What I Liked
This was a pretty good little mystery story.  Once I found out that Jenna was being poisoned, I started to figure out what else was going on in the family.  I can't tell you much more than that without giving too much away!  The mystery that I enjoyed was centered around the dad and his reasons for leaving the family.  I enjoyed getting to know him through his newspaper articles.

I also liked the Texas setting in this book.  Being a native Texan, I hate it when authors put in stuff about my state that they think sounds good for Texas.  Usually it just makes us look stupid.  This author is from Texas and this book is set in the Houston area.  She makes references to boots and the UT/A&M rivalry that I thought was clever.  Sometimes it's nice to feel comfortable in the setting of a book.

What I Didn't Like
I wanted more of the angel aspect of this book.  Don't worry.  That wasn't a spoiler.  If you can't tell from looking at the cover that there is an angel involved, then you need to pay more attention to covers!! :)  Anyway, much like Jenna in the story, I wanted to know more about what happened to Casey and exactly who this Amber chick was that kept showing up to help.  Maybe the author will give us more in her sequel, The A Word, but I feel like there was a major part of the story that didn't get told.

Check out this book trailer to get a little taste of The Sweet Dead Life!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong by Prudence Shen and Faith Hicks

Genre:  Realistic Fiction

Charlie is caught in the middle.  His cheerleader ex-girlfriend needs him to win the election for student body president so that they can get new uniforms with school money.  His best friend needs to win the election so that the money can be spent on the upcoming robotics competition.  Charlie has to bring together this mismatched group of people to unite for one ultimate goal: win the Robot Rumble so that everyone can get what they want . . . in more ways than one!

What I Liked
The artist in this book really found a way to make the reader understand the subtle sarcasm being used to tell this story.  It was funny without trying too hard and interesting enough to make me want to keep reading.  Graphic novels aren't usually my thing, but this one made me smile more than once.

The other thing I liked about this book is that it didn't feel the need to add in a bunch of bad language and sexual material to tell the story.  It just didn't need it.  And there are just too many graphic novels out there that use that kind of material to draw in a reader when there really is no need for it.  The characters and the plot were the stars of this book - as it should be.

What I Didn't Like
Well, it's weird to say, but what I didn't like was the fact that it was a graphic novel.  I just don't enjoy reading them.  This one was an exception because I liked the story so much.

Quintessential Quote
Well, it's kind of hard to quote a graphic novel and really have it stand out as something intelligent, so instead I have inserted a copy of one of the pages.  Charlie was duped into running for student body president and hadn't even had a chance to tell his best friend, Nate, about it.  Nate is also running for president and is not pleased that Charlie is running against him because Charlie is a popular jock who will probably beat him.  I like this page because it shows the lighthearted humor used to tell the story.

If you want a break from the normal way of reading and have been looking to try a graphic novel, this is the book for you!